Learning by Lantern: Starry Night 2017

Starry Night is a special event. One which encompasses the excitement of visiting a place after hours; where, as the sun sets and the lanterns illuminate, the familiar is transformed. Paths become star-studded trails through the twilight, giant luminous mushrooms spring from the ground, and that fairy princess who offers you wishes may just be the real deal. Even the older ones in the crowd can’t help but feel like a kid allowed up past their bedtime. And the best part of this event is that learning is at the centre of it all.

Groups like Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society, Science World, and yours truly set up tents that offer educational activities like touch tanks, potato-powered music, or even a glimpse at a real-life barn owl! Last year, BCWF offered a mysterious giant turtle shell as our main activity (read about it here) and this year we were determined to bring a new activity that would be just as exciting. Enter our “Wetland Jenga”.

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We sometimes had lineups of those eager to to try their hand at our new “Wetland Jenga”

Created just days before the event, this giant and colourful take on the block-pulling classic had participants learning how invasive species could negatively affect wetland health. With each block representing a species that uses wetlands (whether it be the common Cattail or elusive Pacific Water Shrew), two towers of equal height were constructed to each represent a singular wetland. The difference? One wetland was full of pieces that didn’t belong! Misshapen pieces were placed within one tower to represent invasive species like the American Bullfrog. Predictably, the tower full of invasive species would collapse long before it could reach the height of the healthier and more stable tower/wetland. The new game was a hit with children of all ages and demonstrated in a fun (and sometimes crashing!) fashion how we should do our best to keep invasives out of our wetlands.

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At night, our wetland model because mysterious and life-like.

For those who wanted to learn more, our wetland model was also on display. The lantern light’s soft glow had many people thinking the turtles, frogs, and plants were real! This model showed two different types of wetlands: one that was healthy, and one that was not. Even though they both were teeming with life and rather pretty, upon closer inspection you could see that one side had invasive species like Himalayan Blackberry, garbage like cigarette butts, or other damage to the landscape. Even adults were very curious as to why two seemingly identical turtles were on opposing sides of the model (one was the native Western Painted Turtle while the other was in fact the invasive Red-Eared Slider).

According to the event organiser, Metro Vancouver, 1200 people attended the event this August 19th. With BCWF’s tent sometimes packed wall to wall with visitors I can safely say it was a very popular event. Special thanks to Metro Vancouver for once again inviting us to Starry Night, Wildlife Habitat Canada for sponsoring our attendance, and to the 2017 Wetlands Intern, Hailey May, who eagerly and speedily constructed the “Wetland Jenga” game.

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